Cassius Marsh

James Harrison on Patriots' culture: 'I didn't have a problem with it’

James Harrison on Patriots' culture: 'I didn't have a problem with it’

As adversaries and former players openly wonder if the football culture in Foxboro is "fun" enough, recently-retired Pittsburgh Steelers legend James Harrison is asking, why does it matter?

In an interview with CBS Sports Network earlier this week, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year reflected on the final stop of his 15-year career, the Patriots, who signed him late in the 2017 regular season after Pittsburgh released him, as insurance for New England as they geared up for their run to Super Bowl LII.

The biggest takeaway from his time with the Patriots?

"Discipline. That’s the big thing," the five-time Pro Bowler said. "They’re not going to ask you to do anything that is outside of what you’re capable of doing. And it’s, you learn the system and you go out there and you play it. And like I said, it's very regimented, so if you’re a guy that’s not used to discipline, you’re not going to like it there."

Harrison said it was even stricter than his years with former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, with whom he won his first Super Bowl in 2006.

"Cowher wasn't as regimented as Bill [Belichick] was," Harrison said. "Like I say, I didn’t have a problem with it. You know, I enjoyed my time there, you know, I thanked them for the opportunity they gave me to continue to play."

Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson has repeatedly mocked the Patriots since his team them in Super Bowl LII, calling them "arrogant" and a "fear-based organization", even telling the Pardon My Take podcast, "I'd much rather have fun and win a Super Bowl than be miserable and win five Super Bowls."

Meanwhile, 49ers defensive end Cassius Marsh, who was released after eight games with the Pats in 2017, says he hated his time in New England and didn't have fun, telling the San Francisco Chronicle, "I confronted [Belichick] about all the things that were going on. I won't get into detail, but it was B.S. things they were doing. It just wasn't a fan."

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Reports: Marsh had locker room tirade over playing time while with Patriots

Reports: Marsh had locker room tirade over playing time while with Patriots

So, why wasn't ex-Patriots defensive end Cassius Marsh not having any fun while he was in New England?

Part of it could be because he "pitched a fit over playing time" in the locker room at halftime of the Pats' victory over the Raiders in Mexico City last November, as Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated's MMQB.com reported in his column.

Jeff Howe of the Athletic also reported that Marsh tossed a Gatorade jug as part of his meltdown. It was one of the last moves as a Patriot. He was cut two days later.

Marsh played two defensive snaps in the game and six on special teams. 

Marsh, signed by the 49ers a week after the incident, prompted a discussion about the "fun" - or in his view the lack of it - that Patriots players have under Bill Belichick after his comments to the San Francisco Chronicle about how he didn't enjoy his nine-game stint in New England last season. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 


 

McCourty, Hightower swing back on ‘fun-free Patriots’ chatter

McCourty, Hightower swing back on ‘fun-free Patriots’ chatter

FOXBORO – It was established long before this offseason that it’s not all sheetcake, rainbows and bowling trips at Gillette Stadium.

For God’s sake, the progenitor of the whole culture down here tried last February to convince 100,000 people that took the day off to scream, “No days off!!!” Even the players on the podium next to him that exultant day hesitated to co-sign that mess.

But this offseason, derision keeps getting poured on the “Patriot Way.” Why now?

Well, the Patriots came in second in the Super Bowl after Bill Belichick decided the team would make a go of it against the Eagles without one of their most relied-upon cornerbacks.

Then Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski decided to boycott team-sponsored offseason workouts. That decision was at least in part tied to the fact the atmosphere at work wore both men down to a nub in 2017.

So the crows are off the telephone wire and in the middle of the road pulling out Patriot entrails.

A veritable “Who’s That?” of experts have weighed in from Cassius Marsh all the way up to (down to? over to?) Brandon Brooks.

Doing one’s journalistic duty means carrying those quotes to Patriots players.

Did that Thursday.

Didn’t do it to sandblast the notion that the misery index is higher here than most places.

Didn’t do it to spackle over the absences of Brady and Gronkowski.

Did it to hear from guys who are part of the culture whether they take particular exception to drive-by critiques from people who either have never been here or couldn’t cut it.

They didn’t disappoint.

“I think now you look at a team that beats us in a Super Bowl and you get guys who are talking about us, so that's front page news,” said safety and captain Devin McCourty. “Then Cassius leaves and he played here so then that's another [one], but Cassius had a frustrating time here so I don't expect him to leave and say he had a great time.

“But I think if you ask any guy on this team, the fun we have comes from hanging out with each other,” McCourty added. “You guys are in the locker room. The relationships between the guys. A lot of our fun happens right in the locker room before we even come out here and have fun winning football games. Obviously, we work for a living. In this business, you have to win, so when you lose it's not fun. People get fired, you lose your job. That's not fun. I wouldn't believe anyone who only won half their games that they're having the best time of their life. I'm just not here for that.

“I think the value of how we interact and the relationships we have, no one else sees that. No one in Philly can say, 'No one there likes each other. They hate it.' You don't know that. I think you've even seen guys leave, we have great relationships with them, guys still talk. So to me, that's the fun part. And then obviously we come out here on Sunday and we win games. That's the best fun at the end of the week. I plan on continuing to do that no matter what's said."

Asked if he takes exception to the comments, McCourty said, “They're not even here. I think it'd be silly for us to feel bad and then go out and lose games because people say it's not fun here. That's childish. They say you're not having fun so now you shouldn't have fun. No. Go do what you've been doing. It's been working. We're all employed for the Patriots. We've won games, we were just in the Super Bowl last year so I wouldn't say that was the most awful season ever. We've got a couple guys here from Cleveland. They went 0-16. They told me that wasn't fun, so I'm gonna try to stay on this side of it.”

Donta Hightower, also a captain, has never tried to put a buff and shine on the difficulty of playing for this team.

“I mean, it’s not for everybody,” said Hightower. “It’s definitely harder than most places, but I mean, that’s part of it. A lot of guys know that when they come here.

“It’s not Bill’s job to make this fun and this atmosphere fun; it’s the guys around it. Every guy in that locker room, I love like a brother. We have fun, whether it’s out here struggling together – blood, sweat and tears – or we’re back in the locker room or we’re hanging out outside of football. So, there’s a time and place for everything, but we know whenever we walk through the building, it’s time to work.

Hightower committed to Alabama in November of 2007 right after Nick Saban got there. He’s been under the control of two of the most controlling coaches in football since he was 17. He’s now 28.

“Nick and Bill are like two peas in a pod…If you want to get better you don’t mind sacrificing a little bit…that stuff sucks sometimes,” he agreed. “At the end of the day when you know that you’ve done all that you can do and you go out on Sunday or Monday and you’re winning those games and you go back and you’re watching film and you see all of the extra work and all of the stuff that you sacrificed, that it was actually worth it.

“You’re not discrediting that at all,” he added. “I love being here. I loved being at Alabama. I love what I’m doing and I’m just looking forward to going further than that.”
 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE